Note: Jessie Oleson (aka Cakespy) is a good pal of Serious Eats and all-around super cool gal. Every Monday she will be chiming in with a delicious dessert recipe.
When I ponder the long and arduous journey the pilgrims made from Europe to the New World, one question rises in my mind above all others: what did they eat for dessert? Jumbles, of course.
Jumbles are cookies originally documented as early as the late 1500s in Europe. Since they fared well on long sea voyages, they were one of the first cookies brought over to the colonies. Strictly speaking, they aren't really a remarkable cookie. Made with a basic mix of butter, sugar, eggs, and flour, they're more of an empty canvas, taking their personality from various mix-ins.
Early versions were either baked or boiled, often in figure eight shapes. Some say this made them easier to eat, as they tended to become dense and hard (incidentally, this also may explain the name jumble, which is derived from gemel, meaning "twin" in Latin). Rock-like or not, they were undoubtedly a step up away from hardtack.
Jumbles have come a long way since the Mayflower.
Today, they're generally baked as drop cookies with lightly mixed ingredients, and the sky's the limit when it comes to flavor variations. My favorite recipe yields a soft, pillowy cookie which is spicy and only lightly sweet. Coarsely chopped pecans add a pleasing richness and slight crunch. They're wonderful as is, but when topped with a generous dollop of vanilla frosting, they're even better.
Spiced Jumbles With Vanilla Frosting
- For the cookies:
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup light cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans (optional)
- For the frosting:
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup light cream
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Blend flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a large bowl; put off to the side.
Mix butter, sugar and egg until fully incorporated; Stir in buttermilk and vanilla.
Add flour mixture little by little, stirring well with each addition, until fully incorporated. If you are adding nuts, add them now and mix just until incorporated. Allow the dough to chill for about an hour.
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Using a teaspoon or a mini ice cream scoop, drop rounds of dough on your lightly greased cookie sheet, leaving at least 2 inches around each dough ball. If desired, sprinkle with a little extra cinnamon and nutmeg before baking.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. The cookies will not be brown on top, but will have a slight toasty color on the bottom.
Make the frosting. Place the butter, cream, vanilla, salt and 3 cups of the sugar in a the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on low speed, adding the rest of the sugar bit by bit until the desired consistency is achieved.
When the cookies are completely cool, spread with frosting. If desired, give Plymouth Rock a shout out by garnishing with candy rocks.